Puppy power: University of Cambridge teacher creates Mindful Puppy Diaries
Rather than stay at home and potentially go barking mad during lockdown, Dr Elizabeth English enlisted the help of a film director friend and set out to help the wellbeing of our nation.
Together they created the Mindful Puppy Diaries – short videos featuring dog-lover Elizabeth, who is a teacher of mindfulness at the University of Cambridge – and directed and edited by filmmaker Hansel Rodrigues, from Epsom.
The result combines arguably two of the most wholesome and eternally popular things on the internet – mindfulness and puppies.
The proud owner of a beautiful cocker spaniel named Cherub who, on Easter Day, gave birth to six beautiful puppies, Elizabeth teamed up with Hansel to create the online series which followed the puppies from their birth to taking their first steps, to watching their individual personalities emerge and develop.
The nine episodes – which have around 1,000 followers on Instagram – also include advice on mindfulness, and Elizabeth and Hansel also put a lot of video and photographic content on their own social media pages.
While the puppies, which were conceived on Valentine’s Day, have now all gone to new homes, the videos are still available to spread some joy.
The project was originally going to be one or two episodes, but turned into a nine-part series.
“We found so much to say about the big enterprise of having puppies and then handling what comes afterwards, seeing how Cherub was handling it and seeing how I was handling it,” Elizabeth said. “There were so many mindfulness angles, that we really enjoyed doing it together.”
She added: “It was our attention to spread love and joy – it was our gift. We wanted to say to people, ‘Here’s a gift to the world.’”
The peaceful atmosphere that Elizabeth strives to create in her home seemed to have an effect on the puppies. “They were all calm and gentle characters,” she said, “as they left here they were all remarkably calm and easy puppies. We like to think the mindfulness had an effect.”
Hansel, a writer, director and editor, has been friends with Elizabeth for around four years. “I met her randomly on the train when I was coming back from showing my first short film,” he recalled. “Then I found out that she did meditation and I was quite interested in that...
“I found out she had a dog, and it was a breed of dog that I loved. When she said that she would be breeding them, she came to me with the idea and proposed it as sort of a lockdown project. Obviously things were a bit quieter for me during that time, in terms of work, and I thought this could be a nice little project that we could do.
“The days were full of sad stuff happening and this was a nice, wholesome thing that could spread a bit of positivity around, hopefully. So that’s what we did.”
Hansel continued: “Elizabeth would film things, she would send it to me, I would edit it, give her some more direction and hopefully as each episode went along, our process got a bit better. We tried to capture the journey as the puppies were born and as they grew.
“She would film it on her iPhone and send it to me and I would edit it here. We’d do a little back-and-forth that way.”
Hansel has one of Cherub’s puppies himself – he’s called her Juno but in the diaries, she is referred to as Bless as she was born on Easter Day and was the first of the litter to be born.
While the puppies are in new homes, it may not necessarily be the end of the video series. Hansel said that he and Elizabeth may potentially do a reunion episode further down the line when the puppies are a bit older.
“Yes, possibly a Hallowe’en episode, we thought,” says Elizabeth.
View the full series on Youtube and visit the instagram page @themindfulpuppydiaries.